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Blood Mask

Blood Mask

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by Lauren Kelly, Joyce Carol Oates

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Awealthy, charismatic, and controversial "benefactress of art," Drewe Hildebrand disappears from her estate on the Hudson River, seemingly abducted in the night. Her young niece, Marta, found in a desolate wooded area close by, is too traumatized to describe the abductors. A provocative exhibit of avant-garde "bio-art" that includes a blood mask of Drewe Hildebrand


Awealthy, charismatic, and controversial "benefactress of art," Drewe Hildebrand disappears from her estate on the Hudson River, seemingly abducted in the night. Her young niece, Marta, found in a desolate wooded area close by, is too traumatized to describe the abductors. A provocative exhibit of avant-garde "bio-art" that includes a blood mask of Drewe Hildebrand is disrupted by protestors.

In this, her third suspense novel, Lauren Kelly explores the startling world of "bio-artists" and their admirers, examining the intermingling of private, inscrutable motives with public masks of dominance and power; the ways in which spiritual yearnings may be transformed into worldly, erotic appetites that consume the innocent.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Under her Lauren Kelly pseudonym, Joyce Carol Oates explores the wildly subjective world of experimental art in her third suspense novel, following Take Me, Take Me with You and The Stolen Heart.

Drewe Hillebrand, the controversial benefactor of an avant-garde artists' colony, is kidnapped from her estate on the Hudson River, along with her niece, Annemarie Straube. Then hikers report something frantically crawling in the underbrush in a remote area of Shale River Mountain State Park -- a wounded animal, perhaps -- and the investigating rangers find Annemarie with massive amounts of crystal meth in her body. She recovers, but her disjointed recollections don't offer many substantial clues as to what took place. The only evidence is a destroyed work of art that Hillebrand commissioned years earlier, a frozen bust of herself covered in her own coagulated blood -- a blood mask -- sculpted by a radical "bio-anatomical" artist. Is it revolutionary art? Blatant sensationalism? Intentional blasphemy? An avant-garde prelude to murder?

The shocking bio-art featured in these pages is a disturbing metaphor for the entire novel. Blood Mask will not only leave readers wondering till the very end where (and why) Drewe Hillebrand disappeared, but also raise serious questions about self-image, prejudice, devotion, and the societal importance of artistic expression -- a page-turner of the highest order. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
Joyce Carol Oates's gripping third suspense novel under her Kelly pseudonym (after 2005's The Stolen Heart) explores twisted love. Shy, insecure teenager Annemarie Straube becomes the object of intense scrutiny when she's discovered half-clothed and drugged, wandering through the woods. She and her aunt, Drewe Hildebrand, were apparently abducted by fundamentalist Christians who vandalized the older woman's Hudson River estate. Under police questioning, Annemarie has only fragmentary memories of the attack and of being force-fed a powder later determined to be crystal meth. Through flashbacks, Kelly portrays the odd relationship between Annemarie and Drewe and the bizarre assortment of cutting-edge artists who were part of their circle and who eventually emerge as the main suspects in the kidnapping. Since the heroine is the very definition of the proverbial unreliable narrator, piecing together subtle psychological clues to discover the truth will challenge most readers. Fans of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell will be well pleased. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Following the abduction of arts benefactress Drewe Hildebrand, cutting-edge bio-artists present a "blood mask" of her likeness at an exhibition-and all hell breaks lose. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Echoes of countless other Joyce Carol Oates novels and stories clog this third "novel of suspense" offered as the work of her most recent pseudonymous incarnation. Its "mystery" is the disappearance and presumable murder of wealthy art patron Drewe Hildebrand, as reported-hysterically-by her teenaged niece Annemarie Straube, renamed "Marta" by the glamorous aunt who had rescued her from a family (that of Drewe's brother) afflicted with crime, drug addiction and scandal. In other words, we're once again in Oates country: upstate New York, where (we learn, piecemeal, from Marta's feverish memories) Drewe used her inherited wealth to create an artists' colony, supporting and celebrating the work of such maverick artists (and former lovers) as intemperate and ungainly visionary Virgil West and Scottish chauvinist-pig poseur Xenia (born Gregor MacSweeney). The latter's creations of "bio-anatomical" art, whereby sculpted clay heads are "masked" with the subject's own blood, presumably aroused both the art-lover and the feral nonconformist in Drewe-and may have precipitated her uncertain fate. We've seen all this before: the borderline-sexual obsessive relationships, the numbing recycling of scant background details (e.g., the death by drug overdose of a young woman artist initially favored, then dumped by the impulsive Drewe), the catapulting proliferation of crises and climaxes. Oates layers in references to Drewe's willed escape from her humble beginnings, her dalliance with the drug- and sex-addicts who hung out at Andy Warhol's Factory, her fanatical pursuit of culture and sophistication. But the woman is both enigma and cliche: a garish amalgam of waiflike Lost Girl Edie Sedgwick andGloria Swanson devouring scenery as Norma Desmond. The novel's unsurprising surprise open ending is a bummer, and the attempts to build "suspense" into the closing pages of a resolutely unsuspenseful narrative are embarrassingly feeble. Poor stuff by any name, or any standard. Where, oh where, is the author of We Were the Mulvaneys and The Falls?
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Blood Mask packs in enough ideas and foreboding for a book double the length. Oates masterfully engages the reader.”

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Blood Mask

A Novel of Suspense
By Lauren Kelly

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Lauren Kelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061119032

Chapter One

Something Wounded

. . . calling to report an emergency situation here, something wounded in the underbrush, maybe an animal but maybe a person . . .

The call comes in to the Shale River Mountain State Park Emergency Service at 10:20 A.M., April 2, 2003. In a hiking area of white pine and serrated shale outcroppings above the Shale River, at the western edge of the park, hikers report having seen something crawling in the dense underbrush on the riverbank, approximately twenty feet below the hiking trail. The creature had seemed to panic at their approach, crawling frantically into the underbrush to escape. They'd called to it, "Hello? Do you need help? We won't hurt you . . ." -- wanting to think it was an injured deer, or a coyote or stray dog, though it more resembled a human being, possibly a child.

Crawling into the underbrush on all fours.

At this time of year the Shale River Park, as it's commonly called, is mostly deserted. Upstate New York thirty miles northwest of the Hudson River at Newburgh, it has the feel of late winter and not early spring. Most of the snow has melted except at the highest elevations but fresh snow has fallen during the night and isslow to melt in the morning. Ice crusts form on small ponds and puddles. The light is razor-sharp, hurting the human eye.

One of the hikers descends into the underbrush, slipping and sliding, thorns tearing at his jeans. "Hey! D'you need help?" There are outcroppings of shale underfoot, weirdly shaped like steps, treacherously sharp-edged. There are patches of marshy soil that suck at the hiker's boots. Below the trail the river isn't visible but the sound of its rushing and plunging, swollen with mud-colored water, is deafening.

Whatever is fleeing the hiker is crazed with fear, forcing itself through such dense underbrush. The hiker gives up the search. Seeing on thorns at ground level, bright blood glistening like glass beads.

No way to tell if it's animal blood, or human.

Something wounded isn't found until 12:05 P.M.

The hikers have moved on. Several park rangers have been searching the underbrush without luck. There's a blood trail, but it's confused and doubles back upon itself and leads into a thicket impossible for an adult male to penetrate without equipment. Then, one of the rangers thinks to investigate a park services cabin about fifty feet away, a shuttered little building resting on cinder blocks. When the ranger squats to look below it, into a shadowy space no more than six inches in height, he sees what appears to be a human figure.

Calling, "Hey: who's there?"

The figure is lying very still. But the ranger can hear him, or her, breathing.

It isn't an adult male but possibly a boy, or a small-bodied woman, or a girl, lying on her side, knees against her chest, face hidden. A swath of what looks like hair. A very pale, bare foot.

The ranger identifies himself. "I'm not going to hurt you, I'm trying to help you. D'you hear me?"

The breathing has become quick terrified panting.

"Let me help you, O.K.? Here -- "

The ranger stretches an arm beneath the cabin, to his shoulder. Grunting with the effort, blindly groping.

"Hey! Damn."

A muffled cry. The girl has kicked at him.

The ranger calls to the others, who come to investigate. After twenty minutes of effort, they manage to pull out from beneath the building a struggling, seemingly deranged adolescent girl: Caucasian female approximately fifteen-to-eighteen, weight one hundred five, probable assault victim, needing medical attention, raving & delusional, schizophrenic/meth overdose. There is no I.D. on her person, she doesn't respond to questions, has to be considered dangerous. Her blood pressure is abnormally low but her heartbeat is rapid and erratic so emergency medics can't give her a sedative until it has been determined at the hospital what drug or drugs might already be in her bloodstream.

The girl is strapped to a stretcher. It's presumed that she has been raped, beaten. Dumped and left to die in the Shale River Park.

"Jesus! Watch out she don't bite you."


Excerpted from Blood Mask by Lauren Kelly Copyright © 2006 by Lauren Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lauren Kelly is one pseudonym of Joyce Carol Oates, a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. Oates's most recent novel, The Falls, was a New York Times Notable Book, a Washington Post Best Book of 2004, and a Chicago Tribune Top Ten Book of 2004. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she was a recipient of the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature. In 2005 she was awarded France's Prix Femina for The Falls.

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Blood Mask 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
piggie-ninja15 More than 1 year ago
This book is a thriller it will truly make you feel as if you where there, going through this with Marta. It will send chills up your spine, if you want to read a book full of mystery this si the book for you.... ;)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was confusing from the first page, the characters were poorly developed, and the story plodded along at a snails' pace. Also, I found 'Marta' the main character and narrator, very unbelievable in her willingness to go along with all that her strange aunt dished out to her. No one is that lame or naive. I did not care who killed the aunt, as I did not like her or any of the other characters enough to care.